Liquor law and drug violations on campus in decline

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The majority of liquor law and drug violations on campus have been in steady decline since 2013, according to the University’s most recent reports.

Drug abuse violations on campus resulting in arrest have decreased by 28 percent, while liquor law violations resulting in arrest have decreased by 64 percent, according to the 2016 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. The report contains crime statistics and incident reports from 2013 to 2015 that resulted in criminal arrests as well as disciplinary referrals taken by the University. The 2017 report for the 2016 calendar year has not been released. 

While the numbers in the report do reflect a decrease in incidents, they can be misleading, UT Police Department Lt. Greg Stephenson said. 

An arrest is defined as an officer holding someone in their custody and releasing them once a determination of criminal activity has been made, Stephenson said. By this definition, even minor traffic stops resulting in a citation can qualify as an arrest in official crime reports. 

Because officers have the option to write an offender a citation on some drug and alcohol offenses instead of taking them into custody, total arrest reports don’t necessarily exclude these citations. 

“So sometimes you may see stats that say there were 20 minor in possession arrests made — well those may have been citations where people just sign their ticket and left. But that can also mean somebody was actually taken to jail,” Stephenson said.

While liquor law violations resulting in disciplinary referrals have decreased by 15 percent, drug abuse violations resulting in disciplinary referrals have increased by 30 percent since 2013. 

The report, however, does not include any cases in which student amnesty applies, a policy which states any student seeking emergency medical assistance for alcohol or drug overdoses are not subject to criminal or disciplinary proceedings. 

The amount of amnesty cases that occur on campus each year is generally small, said Andel Fils-Aime, director of student conduct and academic integrity. 

These UT policies result in ambiguity that makes it difficult to determine what disciplinary action would be taken in each case, Fils-Aime said. 

“It may be that officially it’s an alcohol incident, but it might have been an alcohol incident with a fight or with threats of violence,” Fils-Aime said. “There might be a number of different … factors that may involve alcohol in some way.”

Because an incident of alcohol violation may include other offenses, the Office of the Dean of Students and its disciplinary offices cannot speculate or directly define what disciplinary action will occur in each instance. 

“The hard part is that the possible sanctions are all the Institutional Rules,” said Sara Kennedy, manager of strategic and executive communications for the Dean of Students. “We can’t speculate because each case is different.”

While the report reflects a decrease in alcohol incidents occurring on campus properties, the underlying reasons behind this decrease are hard to determine, Stephenson said. 

“It’s so hard to judge these things given that we have a (changing) population every year,” Stephenson said. “It would have to do with a bunch of societal changes, like maybe Housing and Food Service is doing a better job explaining to the kids what’s going on, but there are so many variables, (it’s impossible to say).”